9 December 2023

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

Surge in new projects announced by Asia-Pacific airlines on SAF production in the region

Production of sustainable aviation fuel in the Asia-Pacific region has been boosted by three new projects in which major airlines Qantas, Cathay Pacific and All Nippon Airways (ANA) are key partners. In Australia, Qantas, Airbus and the Queensland state government will invest in a new alcohol-to-jet production facility planned by bioenergy company Jet Zero Australia and US-based fuel technology group LanzaJet, using locally sourced agricultural feedstock including sugar cane. Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to partner with mainland China’s State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC) in the development of four new SAF plants using a pathway similar to power-to-liquids. And in Japan, ANA, the country’s largest airline, has agreed to introduce SAF blended locally by ITOCHU Corporation to help power domestic and international flights from Tokyo’s two major airports, Haneda and Narita. The initiatives support commitments by all three airlines that SAF will comprise 10% of their total jet fuel consumption by 2030.

The Australian collaboration centres on the construction by Jet Zero Australia of a new SAF plant in North Queensland using LanzaJet’s alcohol-to-jet technology to produce up to 100 million litres of sustainable fuel per year. The Qantas Group, Australia’s largest airline operator, together with Airbus, will jointly invest A$2 million ($1.34m) of an initial A$6 million ($4m) capital raising, to which the Queensland government will contribute a further A$760,000 ($500,700), with the balance to be provided by Australian and international institutional funds. Collectively, this capital will be used to undertake a detailed feasibility study, and early-stage development of the project, with construction expected to start in 2024.

Andrew Parker, Qantas Group’s Chief Sustainability Officer, said the project was part of a A$200 million joint commitment with Airbus to progress the development of a SAF production industry in Australia, and one of several projects the airline is looking to fund this year.

“Sustainable aviation fuel is critical to the decarbonisation of the aviation industry,” he said. “This investment will help kickstart an innovative project to turn agricultural by-products into sustainable aviation fuel and create a significant domestic biofuels refinery.”

Qantas is currently using SAF sourced overseas to power commercial flights from London and expects to add San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2025.

Airbus’ Executive VP Corporate Affairs and Sustainability, Julie Kitcher, said there was “a growing positive momentum around SAF, and now is the time to move from commitments to concrete actions. The selection of the first investment under our joint partnership with Qantas is an example of such action, with the potential to deliver SAF locally in Australia and to be a model for other locations around the world.”  

Queensland’s Deputy Premier, Steven Miles, said a rich supply of feedstock meant the state was well-positioned to become a key player in SAF development. “It’s exciting to think that Queensland could be producing the millions of litres of SAF needed to power flights across Australia and around the globe, creating more regional jobs in the process,” he said. 

In addition to deploying its alcohol-to-jet technology in the project, said LanzaJet CEO Jimmy Samartzis, “it is equally gratifying to know its impact in developing the domestic agricultural industry, providing a path for energy security, and enhancing the country’s national security posture and greater fuel independence.” LanzaJet said Australia was the second-biggest emitter of carbon per capita on domestic flights.

Ed Mason, CEO of JetZero Australia, which was established in 2021, welcomed the strong investment support for the new SAF plant, which will use surplus ethanol from agricultural and sugar cane by-products to create the new fuel, and acknowledged LanzaJet’s industry leadership in developing alcohol-to-jet fuel technology, with the mechanical completion of its Freedom Pines facility in the US state of Georgia expected later this year. “We are excited to work with them,” said Mason, “to help Australian businesses and government drive real reductions in aviation emissions.”   

In Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific signed an MoU to partner with State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC), which plans to commission four SAF plants in mainland China between 2024 and 2026, each facility capable of producing 50,000 to 100,000 tonnes of SAF per year. SPIC is one of China’s biggest state-owned energy companies and claims the world’s largest solar power installed capacity. The new SAF plants will use a process similar to power-to-liquids’ (PtL) in which renewable electricity is converted into liquid fuels.

“The signing of our cooperation pact is an important milestone in SPIC’s sustainable development pursuits and a significant contribution by a Chinese enterprise towards supporting sustainable development in the global aviation sector,” said the corporation’s chairman Qian Zhimin. “We hope both parties can build on our collaboration in the certification and purchase of SAF to further cooperate in areas pertaining to the industry supply chain, project development and securing the necessary policy support.”

Cathay Pacific Group CEO Ronald Lam said the partnership combined the corporation’s clean energy strengths and the airline’s expertise as an end user of SAF. “Under the MoU, Cathay Pacific will share international experience, and also feedback on the SAF certification process, value chain and overall market know-how to facilitate SPIC in the successful establishment of four plants in the Chinese mainland,” he reported.

In Japan, ANA will procure its first supplies of locally blended SAF for use on domestic and international flights from Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita airports. The SAF solution to be blended will be provided by renewable fuel producer Neste, and blended in Japan by ITOCHU Corporation, as part of a public-private partnership led by the Civil Aviation Bureau of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. 

Photo: Cathay Pacific

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